PEOPLE-Local 645

  • Quality of Life Alliance

Negotiate! Don’t Dictate!

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on March 10, 2010

AFSCME is “Mad as Hell and Seeing Red.”

In a show of solidarity, AFSCME District Council 48 is calling on its members to wear something red every Friday until a contract is negotiated in good faith according to state and federal laws.

AFSCME is also planning a rally to support the union members that have been laid off and will be laid off as Scott Walker continues to play politics with their lives, as well as the lives of every citizen that relies on county services and the lives (and pocket books) of every tax payer. The rally will be this Friday, March 12, from 11:30 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. at Clas Park (at the southern end of the County Courthouse). All are invited to come and “tell Scott Walker what we really think of him.”

And here are some points that one needs to remember before you dismiss AFSCME’s complaints:

  • In September of 2009, the Union reached an Agreement with the County in good faith. The County rejected that Agreement: the Union members did not.
  • The County Executive and the County Board passed a budget that is not balanced, and assumes an assortment of takeaways that the County has NEVER presented to the Union across the table. The proposals were contained in the budget and the Union has NEVER had the opportunity to respond through the negotiation process.
  • The County now wants to blame the Union members for the fact that the County has a deficit. This is just scapegoating – pure and simple.
  • If the County is really interested in having the Union members become partners in addressing the fiscal problems facing the County, then the County should ask the Union back the NEGOTIATING TABLE.
  • The key is for the County to Negotiate, not to DICTATE!!

For a further detailed explanation of the dilemma Scott Walker’s posturing has put him, and all of Milwaukee County, into, I fully recommend reading the article by Lisa Kaiser of the Shepherd Express (note to Steve Schultze: this is what real reporting looks like):

The layoffs of 76 Milwaukee County employees was news to AFSCME District Council 48 Executive Director Richard Abelson, whose union represents the soon-to-be-unemployed workers.Although the county is supposed to inform the union of pending layoffs and provide documentation of the financial benefits of laying off employees, Abelson said the county provided no such proof.

“They sent us a notice that they were laying people off and the layoff notices at the same time,” Abelson said. “They’ve never even attempted to sit down with us and show us their numbers.”

According to a fact sheet supplied by Fran McLaughlin, spokeswoman for Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, the county would save $1.8 million by laying off 27 security guards, 25 parks maintenance workers, nine airport employees and 15 other workers. More than $400,000 would be saved by privatizing the 27 security positions alone, the county asserts.

Abelson isn’t buying it.

“I’m questioning the upfront premise that they’re going to save $400,000,” he said. “Where do they get that number? What are the components of that number? They’ve never shared any of that information with us.”

[…]

Abelson calls the county’s 2010 budget “illegal” because the state requires counties to pass balanced budgets.“This budget clearly was not a balanced budget,” Abelson said. “This budget presumed that there would be concessions from the unions that at the time that they passed the budget hadn’t even been proposed. I don’t know how you can stretch the definition of a legal budget to somehow include items that haven’t been proposed at the bargaining table when you have an equally binding obligation by state statute to negotiate in good faith.”

He said current negotiations with the county are at a standstill. The county has submitted its latest package of concessions as its final revised offer in arbitration, and has filed suit against AFSCME’s final offer, which is the tentative agreement that had been approved by the board committees last year.

“We can’t go forward until those issues are resolved,” Abelson said.

What is not noted in the article but is obvious to even the most casual observer is that Walker is now starting to realize how badly he screwed things up. That is why you see all of his apologists coming out of the woodwork in an effort to spin this as being the union’s fault and to try to get the unions to capitulate, even though it won’t save one job that Walker’s got targeted for lay off in what is nothing more than political posturing for his base of fringe supporters. Needless to say, when one wants to be fair about it, the facts just don’t back up their allegations.

Even though I’ve pointed it out before, I would be remiss if I did not again mention that Jake was absolutely spot on regarding how Walker got us to this point and why he is not fit to lead a kazoo band much less a governmental body:

This is what Tom Barrett did in the City of Milwaukee for the 2010 budget (I know, I was there), and got the needed concessions out of most City workers with fewer furlough days, and no major holes in the budget deficit. Now, the City still has structural issues in its budget, but they were lessened in this latest round of negotiations, because THE MAYOR’S OFFICE DECIDED TO NEGOTIATE AND GOT SOME OF WHAT THEY WANTED. Walker has decided to score political points with suburb boys instead of work with the unions, and the County workers have rightfully told him to shove it. The Milw. County union’s act is no different than corporations shopping their facilities to local communities, trying to score any tax break they can at the expense of everyone else in that town. Strangely, angry white man radio ignores those people who work for the best deal, I suppose because they have money and white collars, while dumping on people who perform real work and have blue collars that are trying to do the same thing.

I agree that unions have to understand they can’t have it all, just like corporates should. But demonizing your workers and trying to play games with their jobs is not the way to get anything done as an employer, and a very telling sign of the type of disaster someone like Walker would be as the head of a McDonald’s (if he ever had a private sector job), and he’s worse of being head of something we DO need, like government services.

The unions aren’t asking for the sun, the moon and the stars like the right-wing Walker apologists would have you believe. They are merely asking for some good faith bargaining and negotiations. You know: Quid pro quo. That is something that even Walker should be able to understand, since that is how he tends to fund his campaign.

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